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Pier Review: IB Pier

The IB pier uses an attractive wedge-shaped design for its substructure, an architectural feature known in the pier industry as the "wet triangle."

This weekend, we visited our most southerly city in the continental US in order to survey and review the Imperial Beach Pier. One of the youngest piers in San Diego County, IB was built in 1989 as an homage to the television program LA Law, at that time in the zenith of its popularity. (I discovered this fact, lost to history, while performing background on the names in the "Thanks to" section at the bottom of the pier's dedication plaque.)

pier dedication plaque

The IB pier uses an attractive wedge-shaped design for its substructure, an architectural feature known in the pier industry as the "wet triangle." While all of the pier's wet triangles are made from concrete, the walkyways and railings are made from aged wood, and this gives the pier a certain postmodern flair: it is a self-mocking pass at looking "old" while obviously founded upon the newest designs. What an 80s thing to do.

wet triangle

Further, in keeping with the LA Law theme, the pier sports all kinds of legalese and rules and citations, all of which is meant to get the piergoer in the spirit of a litigious LA-like society. All rules are openly flouted, of course, because the true ethos of this pier is to not care too much about anything. Even these supposed rules are broadcast in ironic ways: for instance, these birds are trained to shout them at passerby.

bird with rules shouty bird

Aside from the performers there are loads of homeless birds on the IB Pier just waiting for scraps from the hordes of fishers. The goal of the fisher is to litter as much fishing line and stray hooks and bobbing plastic things into the water as possible. To lay waste, in other words, in order to get a photo up on the wall at the fish cafe. Only by depositing as much fishing-hobbyist crud into the water as possible can one expect one's photograph to be included on the wall of the fish cafe.

Now, imagine you're a shark, cruising the angled pylons of this pier, looking for a tasty crab or clam to eat when suddenly a hook snares your face. You thrash your tail to escape, but then you're dragged to the surface and hauled up onto the pier where someone cuts your tail off and throws it onto the roof of the fish cafe as a piece of adornment. Thus in violence and ignominy ends your life.

This behavior is decidedly low-class but it is one, mysteriously, that is not disallowed among the many articles and statutes that are prohibited on the pier. Shark tails thrown onto roofs is a way of saying, "None of this matters, like, anyway."

house of death

In fact, the shark-tail roof is the capital to what is apparently one of the terriblest pier restaurants in San Diego County, the Tin Fish, according to the antagonists on Yelp (well, those who know the difference between "know" and "no", anyway). Why does such a place exist? The truth is that anything goes here: these postmodernists care not a whit for tangible identity, whether it is the identity of a shark or a lawyer or an actual good food and not cruel fish restaurant, because they believe it simply does not exist. What an 80s copout.

And such postmodernity is the overriding flavor of the pier, something this reviewer felt all the more bitterly because he made the mistake of visiting the Chula Vista Nature Center before gathering data for this review. At the Nature Center, a visitor gets to pet and shake hands with bat rays, round stingrays, leopard sharks, shovelnose guitarfish, and snubnose sharks. They even have question-and-answer sessions where the leopard sharks get to swim to a podium with an underwater microphone and ask their guests questions about human society and its brutality toward marine animals.

And I have to say it's just a bit disheartening to see people you've just made friends with and answered questions for have their tails hacked off and thrown on top of a building for decoration. If cat ladies had their own piers, I'd doubt myself whether they would allow the tails of kittens to be thrown on top of a cat cafe. And somehow in the marine world this behavior is acceptable, even socially agreeable.

It is this kind of activity which makes it difficult to stomach the company of postmodernists.

Pier Review Highlights

  • Lots of: shouty birds
  • Lots of: rules
  • Lots of: rip currents
  • Hundreds of: fishers
  • Many: Bathrooms

Conclusion: Very meta place, nihilistic pier.

Footnote: the overriding attitude of the pier is unfortunate because it is an attractive pier, great for viewing rip currents, and with a lot of bathrooms. And what's more: Imperial Beach is one of the only remaining cool beach neighborhoods in San Diego. It is a legitimate place, which is why on balance it probably has such a sarcastic pier: this whole facade is designed to keep PB away.